Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thanks, AAVE!

The following are (or some of us think they are) words and phrases original to African American Vernacular English that have become a part of our lexicon.

I. These are words and phrases that I use myself.
chill’n. (Bryson Vann)
cool. (Amy Davis, Daphine Peck, Caitlyn Stephens, Russell Wimberly) I believe everyone my age has used the word "cool" since elementary school. (Brock Parsons)
dude. (Amy Davis, Caitlyn Stephens, Daphine, Russell) Like everyone else I use variations of "hey, man" or "hey, dude" (Brock Parsons).
I'm down. I don't know if this is AAVE or not, but I often use the phrase "I'm down," which means Okay, I'll go along with it. (Jaclyn Duvall)
janky. I think that is an older word and I may be the only one that still uses it. (Merry Monroe)
man. (Daphine, Sherry, Merry, Brock, Caitlyn, Russell)
my bad. (Caitlyn Stephens)
peace out. A neutral goodbye. (Bryson Vann)
punk. (Caitlyn Stephens)
talkin' trash. I'm not sure if it is AAVE. I have several AA friends who use it. (Daphine Peck)
that's ghetto. (Caitlyn Stephens)
wassup. I have used "wassup" on various occasions. (Amy Davis)
yeh. Sounds more like "yea-uh," occasionally follows "hellz" for intensity. (Bryson Vann)
yo mama! Used as an insult or when joking. (Caitlyn Stephens)

II. These are words and phrases that I hear others use, but don't use myself.
aight. I heard the word aight shortnend for all right. (Justin)
boo. (Caitlyn Stephens)
cool. (Sherry, Merry)
cuzzed. Not sober. Ex: "They were getting all 'cuzzed' up after prom." (Bryson)
dissin'. My kid used a word that I hadn't heard in some time - "dissin'". i.e. Jason was dissin' DJ. (Daphine)
dog. (Caitlyn Stephens)
dude. (Merry)
gangsta. (Caitlyn Stephens)
hellz yeah. (Brock Parsons)
ill. Cool. Ex: That d.j. was busting some 'ill' rhymes. (Bryson)
mad. (Brock Parsons)
man. (Sherry)
my bad. (Sherry, Merry, Russell Wimberly)
oh, snap. (Brock Parsons)
phat. adj. describing something appealing. Acronym for Pretty Hot And Tempting. (Ben Nicolls)
player. (Caitlyn Stephens)
scrub. (Jaclyn Duvall)
sup? This being short for whats up. (Justin McDaniel)
trif'lin'. (Jaclyn Duvall)
tripp’n’. To freak out. (Bryson Vann)
whassup? (Daphine)
what it do? (Caitlyn Stephens)
what up? (Jaclyn Duvall)
what’s good with it? A curious customer asking this wanted to know how good the barbecue was from the store I worked at :). (Bryson Vann)
where do you stay? I have many AA friends and there is a phrase that they use that is different from what I have heard anyone else say. When asking about my place of residence instead of asking where do you live, they asked, 'where do you stay'? (Merry Monroe)
word. (Daphine)
what's happenin? (Caitlyn Stephens)
whatsup. (Russell Wimberly)

Glossary of Regionalisms

The following are words, phrases and pronunciations that strike us as distinctive of the region that we grew up in:
I. Words and phrases I used to hear, but don't much anymore.
casin'.Today it's called car tires; ex.: "Let's roll caison's". Get inside the caisson (tire) and let it roll. The outer cover of an pneumatic tire. We called it "casin's", dropped the "g". (Sherry Nail)
couplins. (Merry Monroe)
Cox's Army. Ex.: "My mom cooked enough to feed Cox's Army." (Merry Monroe)
"don't forget to write." A phrase I don't hear anymore. (Sherry Nail)
drec-ly. Ex: "I'll be there drec-ly" (directly). (Sherry Nail)
going to the dogs. (Russell Wimberly)
ice box and ice tray. People would call the refrigerator "ice box"; and if you wanted ice, you would "be sure to fill the ice tray". I don't hear either word anymore. (Sherry Nail) "I know I am dating myself, but for some reason I still put my milk and eggs in the icebox." (Merry Monroe)
minus well. (Brock Parsons, Chicago?) This is something that my best friend's ex-girlfriend used to say instead of "might as well."
rasslin'. My grandmother would always say 'rassling', instead of 'wrestling', when my brother and I would fight. (Ben Nicolls)
Sam Hill. Ex.: "What in the Sam Hill are you doing?" (Sherry Nail)
tenner shoe. (Russell Wimberly, the Deep South)
tar-nation. Ex.: "What in tar-nation are you doin'?!" (Daphine)

II. Words and phrases I still hear.
A/C. In place of Air Conditioner. (Brock Parsons)
cahoots. This is a word I heard a lot when I was younger. It means to be in league with someone who is not on the up and up. Actually, depending on who I am talking to, I still use this word. (Merry Monroe)
cattywampus. I found both "cattywampus" and "woppy-jawed" in online dictionaries (see below). "cattywampus." 1. (informal) In disarray or disorder; askew. 2. Not directly across from nor adjacent to. Alternative spelling: "catawampus." So now I now these are not just words my in-laws use. (Jim Brockman)
dang nabbit. I don't know if this is regional, but I hear it and use it. (Jaclyn Duvall)
dat. I hear quite a few people say the word "dat" in place of "that". i.e. You want some of dat?" (Daphine Peck)
declare. Pronounced with an emphasis on first syllable. (Justin McDaniel)
deep freeze. This would be the freezers that are used for storing meat. (Justin McDaniel)
dem. My Grandmother & my Mother like to use the phrase - "Now, how you like dem apples?"
foo. I've heard my grandparents say is "foo" instead of "fool." (Brock Parsons)
fixin' ta. I still hear it all the time. (Brock Parsons) (also Caitlyn Stephens)
gonna. (Caitlyn Stephens)
like, pronounced: "lack". (Jim Brockman)
pickup truck. or simply pickup in place of a truck. I hear it on TV quite often still. (Brock Parsons)
plumb. Ex.: "plumb furious" or "plumb tired." (Brock Parsons)
red eye. My mom occasionally says "red-eye" in place of "reddy". For example: "Are you red-eye?" Her accent is not that strong or evident, so I think her saying is either poking fun at southern accents or people with red eyes (maybe both). (Bryson Vann)
stove/oven. Interchanged a lot. My mom always uses the word "stove" to name a heater, oven, and other related words. (Brock Parsons)
whoppy-jawed. 1. not quite right. off-kilter. out of alignment. off balance. See "cattywampus" above. (Jim Brockman)

III. Word and phrases that are not so much distinctive to a region as much as they are distinctive to individuals I know.
"alky-haul." My Grandmother says this when she talks about rubbing alcohol.(Daphine)
buttcrack of dawn. My sister often said this. "The buttcrack of dawn." So, whenever she had to wake up early in the morning she would say. " I gotta wake up at the buttcrack of dawn." (Jaclyn Duvall)
croshit. Instead of "crochet." (Jacyln Duvall)
diescussin. (Ben Nicolls)
"Eighter from Decatur." My great grandfather used to say 'let's geddup' which was later explained to me as 'let's go.'" (Bryson Vann)
government work. My father likes to say "Guess it's good enough for government work." (Daphine Peck)
Grassy ass. Alternative pronunciation of "gracias." (Katie Stephens)
hand. A friend that I used to work with called all of his co-workers "hand" (in place of: friend, dude, homie, bro etc). This reminds me of 'cow-hands' historically. It was also motivation to make a 'hand' in the workplace. (Bryson Vann)
heebie-jeebies. (Caitlyn Stephens.)
"If the good Lord spare me." (Caitlyn Stephens)
"Jackson Brown from way across town." (Bryson Vann)

IV. Category undefined.
"a'comin' or a' goin." When I lived in Sasakwa for a year as a child, my neighbor would always ask her Grandchildren if they were "a'comin' or a'goin'" The "ing" was always gone. (Daphine)
buggie. A shopping cart. (Kaitlin Wallace)
durn it. My grandpa says this one whenever he is confused. (Justin McDaniel)
geddup. (Amy Davis).
heifer. Ex.: "You heifer!" I don’t know if it’s regional but its something that people in my family use. (Caitlyn Stephens)
hoopy. A word that my uncles used in referring to an automobile. Example: We will go as soon as the hoopy warms up. This was back before the Edsel and Hudsons went by the wayside. Of course the first car that I remember was a woody station wagon, so it didn't sound all that strange to me. (Merry Monroe)
hunker. 1. When you were in for a long wait you would hunker down and wait. 2. To hunker over to proect your self from the cold. Ex.: "He walked down the road hunkered over to try and keep warm." (Merry Monroe)
"Get down and come in." This is a phrase that is still used by some of the elders. It is from a time when visitors often arrived in a wagon instead of a car. (Merry Monroe)
jism. A condiment. (Amy Davis)
"Scared the bejesus out of me!"(Caitlyn Stephens)
"They can't see the forest for the trees." My family has always used this to describe an individual carlessly overlooking something. (Bryson Vann).
tump. When I was growing up I was always told to sit in the wagon. If I stood in the wagon it would "tump" me out. (Merry Monroe)
You don't know come here from go sic em. In other words you might not be as smart as the average dog. (Russell Wimberly)

Linguistic Profiling

Click here and take the quiz!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dialects of Oklahoma?

Here's a dialect map that offers a different analysis of the dialects of Oklahoma than the one offered by Labov. This comes from the "Web Atlas of Oklahoma." Thanks for the link, Jim.

Is TV a threat to dialectical diversity?

"Many Americans believe that television and radio are homogenizing our language, making all of us talk more alike. To linguists that is a myth. Despite decades in which we have listened to or watched the same programs, the regional differences in American speech remain vigorous. Paradoxically, the truth seems to be that, where change occurs, it is often creating more diversity, not less" (31).

From Do You Speak American?: A companion to the PBS television series, by Robert MacNeil and William Crain (New York: Doubleday, 2005).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What do New Yorkers sound like?

Click here to hear what Linguist William LaBove has to say about the social status of the /r/ in New York speech patterns (the interview includes the same clip of Franklin Roosevelt that is included in "Do you speak American?").

NYT article texting, language, and the OED

interesting history of spelling, etc.

another blog

Thanks to Dr. Benton for inviting me to join. I regularly check this blog which keeps me up to date on Language happenings:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

21 Accents

Which one sounds . . .
the most romantic?
the friendliest?
the smartest?
the least smart?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The way someone speaks is not only reflected out loud, but it also can shape one’s writing style. The way you interpret other’s accents is also important when writing because it determines the personalities and setting of the characters in a story. It is the writer who gives voices to their characters, and the writer’s understanding of dialect strongly controls the characters. For these reasons, dialect is not only responsible for how we present ourselves, but also how we present ourselves as writers.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

African American Dialect: In the News

This column by Leonard Pitts (that's Pitts in the photo at left) appeared in the Miami Herald on Monday. Thank you, Dr. Murphy, for forwarding the link.
"Reid right about skin color, dialect"

"Somebody please tell Harry Reid there are no Negroes in America. There haven't been since the late 1960s, which is when black people arrived and drove that term out of favor. The person who uses it without irony, as Reid did, paints himself as a geezer out of touch with the past 40 years, the kind of person who still calls rock music a fad.

"That said, there is little else to complain about in the quote from the Senate majority leader that has had political types hyperventilating. Said quote is from "Game Change," the new book on the 2008 presidential campaign. It has Reid, a supporter of then-candidate Barack Obama, privately suggesting the country was finally ready to elect a black man, especially one who, like Obama, is "light-skinned" and has "no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

"A firestorm quickly raged, with Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele likening Reid's remarks to the gaffe that got Sen. Trent Lott in trouble eight years ago. In his online column, Journal-isms, Richard Prince wrote that panelists on the talk shows "were shocked, shocked that there is 'colorism' in America and a perceived 'Negro dialect.'... Coincidentally, there were no journalists of color in any of the discussions."

"Too bad. They might have helped frame the one question that went conspicuously unaddressed in the loud debate over what Reid said:
"Was he right?"
To find out Pitts' answer to this question, click here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Are you a Yankee or a Rebel?

What do you think of the questions on these two quizzes (a) and (b)? Was the diagnosis accurate in your case?

After you've taken the quizzes, click here to listen to a 4-minute interview with Robert Beard, the author of the quiz, on National Public Radio.

What do you make of Dr. Beard's claim about what happens to accents once you get past Ohio?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

"Quaint Southernisms"

Check out these selections from Robert Beard's Glossary of Quaint Southernisms.

Give yourself 3 points for terms you use frequently, 2 points for terms you use occasionally, and 1 point for terms you don't use yourself but grew up hearing.

In the comments section of this post:
1) Let us know your score (optional--you don't have to if you don't want to);
2) Leave a new term or phrase typical of this region or the region where you grew up.

Do you speak American?

The "Do you speak American?" website is great place to begin discovering what the study of linguistics is all about. Explore the website (links lead to links lead to links--just keep clicking).

In the comments section of this post, report back something interesting that you have learned (or several interesting things!). Be sure to mention the part of the website where you found the information so that others may go there if they are intrigued.